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put out it was ignored as mathematics, except by a few, chiefly
Boole's own more unorthodox countrymen, who recognized
that here was the germ of something of supreme interest for all
mathematics. To-day the natural development of what Boole
started is rapidly becoming one of the major divisions of pure
mathematics, with scores of workers in practically all countries
extending it to all fields of mathematics where attempts are
being made to consolidate our gains on firmer foundations. As
Bertrand Russell remarked some years ago, pure mathematics
was discovered by George Boole in his work The Laws of Thought
published in 1854. This may be an exaggeration, but it gives a
measure of the importance in which mathematical logic and its
ramifications are held to-day. Ofhers before Boole, notably
Leibniz and De Morgan, had dreamed of adding logic itself to
the domain of algebra; Boole did it.
George Boole was not, like some of the other originators in
mathematics, born into the lowest economic stratum of society.
His fate was much harder. He was born on 2 November 1815 at
Lincoln, England, and was the son of a petty shopkeeper. If we
can credit the picture drawn by English writers themselves of
those hearty old days - 1815 was the year of Waterloo - to be
the son of a small tradesman at that time was to be damned by
The whole class to which Boole's father belonged was treated
with a contempt a trifle more contemptuous than that reserved
for enslaved scullery maids and despised second footmen. The
lower classes', into whose ranks Boole had been born, simply
did not exist hi the eyes of the 'upper classes' - including the
more prosperous wine merchants and moneylenders. It was
taken for granted that a child in Boole's station should dutifully
and gratefully master the shorter catechism and so live as never
to transgress the strict limits of obedience imposed by that
remarkable testimonial to human conceit and class-conscious
To say that Boole's early struggles to educate himself into a
station above that to which 'it had pleased God to call him1
were a fair imitation of purgatory is putting it mildly. By an
act of divine providence Boole's great spirit had been assigned